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Joining the “Brotherhood of Muscle” plus an Italian love affair

Brotherhood of Muscle at COTA_44

When I first saw Dodge’s new commercial ad for the “Brotherhood of Muscle”, with Vin Diesel, I had a negative reaction to it. First impressions made it sound like Mopar was now going to be the frat boy nationally agreed upon fleet machine. Which annoyed me, but only because I’m a true admirer of Mopars. For the first time in my life that I felt like a hipster, that whole, “I liked them before they were cool” moment. It’s no secret that FCA is putting a higher octane spin on an old formula: Make them loud, make them brightly colored, keep them under six figures, and prepare for backorders. An improvement from cartoon horns and 90 day warranties into some truly impressive cars that can more than just burnouts.

At this year’s 2017 Texas Auto Round Up I had a golden ticket opportunity to test out FCA’s finest, back to back! On an F1 track.

  • 2017 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
  • 2017 Dodge Charger SRT Daytona
  • 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392
  • 2017 Alfa Romeo Giuila Quadrifoglio

I’m 24, I can’t legally rent a car from a company I used to work for, yet here I am jumping in and out of these cars like Speed Racer. The journalist in me wanted to put aside all Vanishing Point, Christine, Bullitt, fantasies and remain unbiased. However, the car guy in me wanted to know if all the trash talk on the forums were real. Are they too heavy? Too fat? All flash and noise used to make tire smoke?

Brotherhood of Muscle at COTA_8

2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392

First Impressions

Every time I was around this car people would say, “It fits you.” Which immediately went straight to my inflated ego. Being told that I matched with a big green muscle car with a matte black “392” decals, wheels, and hood pins. The Challenger dwarfed the other performance coupes parked next to it.

The sun was still raising when I lined up the Challenger T/A to exit pit lane onto the Circuit of the Americas race track. Waiting for the cars ahead to clear gave me time to check the dashboard to make sure the driver settings were okay. Everything on sport mode, good. Into manual so I could use the paddle shifters. “Wait for the signal…okay, there not your tires, Punch it!”

I was bracing for the jump. That moment where I would just hear the rear tires melting away as I inched forward off the line. You know, what the critics say about big, V8, rear wheel drive cars. What I didn’t expect was a volcanic eruption taking off the line and rocketing my head back into the plush seats. Thank god for red line censors because I was so intoxicated by the whole event that I forgot I needed to change into second gear.

No denying the fact that the Challenger is a big car, and I could feel its weight being pushed around through the turns. However, if you aren’t a caveman you’ll see the modern technology infused in this Hemi throwback. The Challenger T/A feels wide but delivers the power when you need it without hesitation. Which means you can use the 392 Hemi to power through corners like a Trans-Am racer. All while listening to it growl in anger when you downshift.

Stats & Features

You won’t be able to order one of these until October, but until then here’s what you need to know.

The T/A comes in 3 trim levels. A standard Challenger T/A gets you a 5.7 liter 375 horsepower hemi V8, with a standard 6-speed manual. (A manual as standard, a true throwback) Buyers can also option an 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The T/A package includes stain black trim, a hellcat inspired hood scoop, and ram-air through the headlamp just like its big brother Hellcat. What makes the T/A stand out from the rest of its brothers is Dodge’s Super Track Pack. Which lowers the car 0.5 inches, upgraded shocks, high performance brake lining, a 3-mode stability control (with off switch), aluminum wheels, and sticky Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. Cherry on top is a performance exhaust, exclusively for the T/A, that makes it sound like its 1971 at Laguna Seca when the rev needle goes passed 5,000 RPM.

Next is the T/A Plus which upgrades the cloth seats for leather wrapped heated and ventilated buckets. As well as a better audio system, infotainment system, and a leather wrapped steering wheel. The top of the line, as shown in this article, is the T/A 392. Buyers who go for this will be rewarded with a 6.4 liter 485 horsepower 392 hemi V8! To cope with the added power all T/A 392’s come with a set of Pirelli three-season performance tires on slightly wider wheels, and big pizza pan sized Brembo brakes. All the better to intimidate every MX5 on track day.

Brotherhood of Muscle at COTA_28

2017 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat & Daytona

Choosing a Mopar is starting to feel like going to an ice cream store. So many colorful options and each one makes a great noise. The Daytona is basically a visual trim package. You get the cool throwback “Daytona” decals paying tribute to the 200mph winged warriors of 1970, and upgraded Daytona embroiled leather seats. Not to mention a 485 horsepower hemi V8 with 8-speeds of baritone to play with.

The Hellcat, well if you haven’t heard by now then you either don’t care or you’re too young to read this, so I’ll save you the 707 horsepower speech. I’ll skip to how they felt on the track.

Pro Wrestlers are the only thing that makes sense to compare these vehicles too. They are so big, yet they move with such grace. Once you get a feel for how the Charger SRT accelerates you’ll find how responsive the steering is, for its size and weight. I had no trouble controlling these cars under hard braking going into turns at COTA. I felt comfortable taking sharp turns at highway speeds because I knew I was not going to get body roll. The Hellcat and Daytona are poised in keeping their paws on the track. Of course, if you want to cut loose just put your foot in it and brace for the G-force.

Brotherhood of Muscle at COTA_4

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

This car actually won Texas Car of the Year at the 2017 Auto Round up. Which means that most, if not all, the journalists giggled the first time they accelerated from 0-60 in the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia. The steering in the Giulia is feather light with the precision of a surgeon’s hand. The bi-turbo V6 jump scares you off the line. It’s just as brutal and exciting as its Mopar American cousins, and just as loud. With a 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds and 505 horsepower it’s not surprising this thing gets compared to a BMW M3.

Brotherhood of Muscle at COTA_25

To Sum it All Up

The best way to sum up how cool these cars are, beyond facts and figures, was something I noticed at the event. Every time any of these cars launched off the line the whole place stopped for a moment to listen. No needed smiles or facial expressions required. Just the split moment of distraction followed by admiration. That is the level of cool these machines speak.

Jesus R. Garcia
the authorJesus R. Garcia
Jesus R. Garcia is an automotive journalist and contributor to Future Motoring. He's a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association.

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